Trump poised to announce US Supreme Court nominee

The US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 10 July 2018

Trump poised to announce US Supreme Court nominee

  • The candidates on Trump’s shortlist are all steadfast conservatives
  • Trump has moved quickly to make a nomination while Republicans hold a bare majority in the Senate, which needs to approve the appointment

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump was poised Monday to nominate a new conservative judge to the Supreme Court, a decision with momentous implications for America on everything from abortion to guns to immigration.
Trump kept the suspense running through the weekend, teasing the announcement for maximum dramatic effect, but by Monday afternoon was reported to have made his pick among a shortlist of four judges, all with solid right-wing credentials.
The decision — awaited eagerly by his conservative supporters, and with trepidation by his liberal opponents — was to be announced at 9:00 p.m. (0100 GMT Tuesday) in a prime time address from the White House.
At stake is nothing less than a paradigm shift on the court, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy handing Trump an opportunity to place a decidedly conservative stamp on the bench.
“I have long heard that the most important decision a US President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice,” Trump tweeted early Monday, after a weekend spent weighing his decision at his New Jersey golf club.
While Trump has already made one pick for the high court since taking office in January 2017, the vacancy left by Kennedy, announced late last month, has weightier implications.
For years Kennedy often served as the tie-breaking swing vote between conservatives and liberals on the nine-member bench.
The candidates on Trump’s shortlist are all steadfast conservatives. They are Brett Kavanaugh, a former adviser to George W. Bush; Raymond Kethledge, a strict interpreter of the US Constitution; Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic and social conservative; and Thomas Hardiman, a staunch gun rights advocate.
All four federal judges have the endorsement of major Republican legal groups, most importantly the powerful Federalist Society. None is older than 53, meaning they could sit on the court for decades, allowing Trump to make a lasting imprint on the nation’s laws.
“From the perspective of judicial conservatives, Trump really can’t lose here,” Josh Blackman, an associate professor at South Texas College of Law, told AFP.
“He could throw a dart on that list” and conservatives would be happy.

In recent years the Supreme Court has made landmark decisions on fundamental and often politically charged issues ranging from same-sex marriage, abortion, gun rights, corporate money in elections, and free speech.
In the coming year the court might have to consider Trump’s powers and rights in the investigation into links between his presidential campaign and Russia, and whether he sought to obstruct that probe.
Trump has moved quickly to make a nomination while Republicans hold a bare majority in the Senate, which needs to approve the appointment.
Republican congressional leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly tried to nudge Trump toward one of two candidates — Hardiman or Kethledge — seen as presenting fewer obstacles to a Senate confirmation.
Within Republican ranks, Senator Susan Collins has already signalled she could break with her party if Trump taps someone hostile to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed women’s access to abortion.
If the nomination is delayed and Democrats capture an extra seat in the Senate in November elections, Trump could be forced to compromise with liberals in order to fill Kennedy’s seat.

Trump promised Sunday to choose an “exceptional person” for the post, but some Democrats were already signalling blanket opposition.
“I will oppose the nomination the president will make tonight because it represents a corrupt bargain with the far right, big corporations, and Washington special interests,” Senator Bob Casey said.
By Monday Barrett, at 46 the youngest and the only woman of the four, was being widely discounted due to her relative inexperience and her strong views as a social and religious conservative.
Kavanaugh, 53, began his career as a clerk to Kennedy. As a judge on the US Court of Appeals in Washington he has written opinions on some of the nation’s most sensitive issues. He recently voiced disagreement with a court decision allowing an undocumented teenage immigrant to get an abortion.
He also has expressed a broad interpretation of what constitutes obstruction of justice, a position which could be risky if the Russia investigation leads to impeachable allegations against Trump.
Kethledge, 51, sits on the Sixth Circuit appeals court. He is seen as an “originalist” — a conservative school that seeks to interpret the US Constitution based on the thinking of the country’s founding leaders, and often takes narrow views in cases of individual rights.
Hardiman, 53, a judge on the federal court in Philadelphia, is less known in terms of his legal philosophy, but has working-class roots that could make him attractive to the American public.


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 49 min 30 sec ago

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”